Browser Based 3D Worlds: Are the Pieces Finally Falling in Place?

by Alphaville Herald on 27/03/09 at 6:00 pm

by Urizenus Sklar, Contributing Editor

Raph Koster is expressing a kind of jaded been-there-done-that-saw-it-coming attitude about what he is seeing at the Game Developers Conference this year, and I’m not surprised. One year you are the crazy nut describing the future to an audience of twelve other nuts, and the next year the room is full of hundreds of suited up, panting, business people who just last year were marketing Band-Aids and motor oil and are now world-wide experts on the great promise of virtual worlds.

But even in the face of this dreary spectacle of suits in rut, Raph can barely disguise his glee over recent developments in the development of 3D browser technology. And who can blame him? The infrastructure of Metaplace is lying there waiting for web based technology to bring it with the 3D. When that happens then life gets very interesting indeed.While virtual worlds like Second Life have proved the concept of 3D virtual worlds, they are still not “of the web”. What happens when robust 3D  virtual worlds accessible through a web browser? When the only application you need is Firefox? We’ve seen attempts to push "of the web" virtual worlds before before (remember Trevor Smith’s Ogoglio project?), but now things are heating up.

 According to this report in CNet we are getting very close:

The Web is gradually becoming a better foundation for applications with splashy, sophisticated interfaces, but 3D graphics on the Web remain primitive. Now, though, Mozilla, the group behind the Firefox browser, and Khronos, the consortium that oversees the widely used OpenGL graphics interface technology, are trying to jointly create a standard for accelerated 3D graphics on the Web.In response to a Mozilla proposal, Khronos established an Accelerated 3D on Web working group to create a royalty-free specification. The goal is to produce a first public version within 12 months, Khronos said in an announcement at the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco.

Then there is this, from Mozilla's Vladimir Vukicevic, in an article entitled “3D On the Web: It’s Go Time”

The intense focus on Javascript performance over the past year has seen tremendous improvements across all browsers. Raw language performance is getting to the point where it can keep up with the raw computational requirements of 3D. It will only continue to improve, spurred on by 3D and other use cases. Second, the hardware required for accelerated 3D is becoming pervasive; hardly any desktop computer ships without some form of hardware acceleration, and the latest crop of smartphones almost uniformly have at least OpenGL ES 1.1, if not 2.0 available. Starting this work now ensures that a standard will be ready when Web developers want to take advantage of the capabilities available in hardware.

In the hall of mirrors that is the interwebs, separating hype from reality can be difficult, but this is starting to look like the real deal.

11 Responses to “Browser Based 3D Worlds: Are the Pieces Finally Falling in Place?”

  1. Satan

    Mar 27th, 2009

    I’m very impressed with Metaplace. The ability to create scripts (Yes, MP has a Lua based scripting language for users to create scripts similarly to the way they do in SL), easily build, upload sounds and images, program your objects to behave a certain way,etc,,etc. there is a lot of creative potential here. Raph even managed to make it unappealing to the sexual deviants that made second life so unappealing. There is far more creative potential here then I have heard anyone mention.

    I already deleted all the squirrels from my world and replaced them with SWAT trucks that wander around aimlessly and run away from visitors. Then I erected a giant vacuum cleaner in the middle of everything, and I planted a giant robot to the side which I named “Prokofy”. It shouts random prok-tastic phrases every few minutes and makes the chat appear as though it’s coming from a player named Prokofy (So long as it isn’t in view). I’m going to have loads of fun experimenting with this new toy.

    BTW, here is a good link for those who are trying to get started:

  2. MetaPlastered

    Mar 28th, 2009

    I tried Metaplace, couldn’t even login on Linux. Went to their forums, tons of posts about the issues, flash etc… I think they are more alpha than OpenSim in my opinion.

  3. MetaPlastered

    Mar 28th, 2009

    In terms of the browser based idea, ugh, no. I didn’t like it at all with Firefox. A dedicated client for the service is the only way to go IMO.

  4. At0m0 Beerbaum

    Mar 28th, 2009

    I was a bit skeptical at first about MP but it has room for improvement. They plan on a 3d client ala SL in the near future, and I’m guessing keeping the browser interface for situations where a 3d client may not be handy.

    If they do that, SL may go the way of the dodo. It’s been said before but MP offers content creation and it will be offering a 3d setup like SL does soon enough, and more than likely with less resources than what SL requires.

    SL is a dying dinosaur, the only groups it will appeal to in the end are furries and sexual deviants (oxymoron, I know.)

    Though as much as I knock SL, you do have to give it credit, it did do what many failed to do before. IE, relevant. But since Linden Labs decided to not move forward, and is actually going in reverse, plus a crappy buggy client that gets worse and more bloated with each release, even if MP offers a fraction of what SL offers when it comes to avatar creation, people will deal if they can create what they want. Which is something that SL did get right and many of its alternatives got horribly wrong.

    Also, @metaplastered, I’d say it’s better off than opensim due to the fact the servers don’t crash if you create a basic object.

    My gripe with OS is the fact with all the knowledge they have now how to make a grid, and a networked gaming environment, instead of rewriting from scratch and making something new, they’re just going to mimick an unstable and shoddy platform, and thus, create an even shoddier alternative. Why mimick shitty software when you can create good software from scratch. Interactivity with the SL grid eventually? In your dreams! Linden Labs will likely release licenses for their own server software before linking with any opensim grids. I know they tried it already, but that was with IBM.

    Also, I’d like to point out that browser (more appropriately, flash based or plugin based 3d worlds that embed inside a browser) based worlds aren’t new at all. There was that penguin world thing (which disney now owns) and Habbo Hotel (POOL’S CLOSED due to aids) which the latter was isometric 3d as well.

    However, this should prove to be interesting. I like MP’s take on it, eventually making the browser interface am optional method, or at least the method to initially test it out)

  5. Amanda

    Mar 28th, 2009

    I tried Metaplace. It looks childish.

  6. urizenus sklar

    Mar 28th, 2009

    Mr. Beerbaum, I count worlds like Habbo and TSO as being 2D iso, not 3D (like SL is). What we are waiting for is 3D (in this sense) in a browser.

    Amanda, you can’t evaluate Metaplace by what you *see*, you have to look at the tools and think about what people are going to build with them. If no one adopts the tools and builds things then it will be a bust. If Flash technology and browsers don’t advance then it will also be a bust (but I consider the probability of this to be close to zero) One thing I have seen already is that the task of building PvP and D&D type games in the world is going to be much easier (I still think about what a long march to nowhere the Simcast project in SL was). There don’t seem to be any serious limits on what pixel artists and scriptors can do (Lua is a great scripting language). Like SL, it all depends on what the users do with the tools they are given.

  7. Stephie

    Mar 29th, 2009

    @ Amanada:

    I could say the same thing about SL. 6ft tall blonde whores with bling? It’s like playing on a Barbie website, only the vaginas and tits are viewable.

  8. Cat

    Mar 31st, 2009

    I must ask, what makes it unappealing to sexual deviants?

  9. Satan

    Mar 31st, 2009

    The graphics would make it unappealing to sexual deviants. That’s why they’re whining. They wanna yiff in there but they need better graphics in order to get off on dog dick.

  10. Ishtara

    Sep 10th, 2010

    Quote: “Raph even managed to make it unappealing to the sexual deviants that made second life so unappealing.”

    Yeah, and that’s exactly why Metaplace was a total failure. Just like everything else that Raph Koster has worked on since UO days. Sex sells, prudery does not. Who needs that enormous creative potential if you can’t be a sexual human being in an online world?

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